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Courses in 2022

Magic & WitchcraftOctober

A dark, spooky image with three candles

In the Middle Ages witchcraft developed from beliefs and practices of pagan religion. As Christianity spread, new beliefs and rituals were blended with the old. But there were holdouts such as the Norse who became Christian hundreds of years after many peoples of Europe and retained ancient beliefs about magic and witchcraft. In the 12th century, the concept of white and black magic spread widely causing the Church to investigate. As a result, witchcraft became those beliefs outside Christian belief. A surprising amount of pagan belief was just fine with Christians.

At the end of the 16th century European elites believed that, just as European nations were becoming better organised, the devil made pacts with witches and organised them into covens. The regimes of the 16th and 17th centuries controlled what they considered the deviance of witches by persecution. 

Scotland became a persecuting nation in the reign of James VI and, between 1590 and 1700 over 1000 people, mostly women, were executed. However, in the Scottish Highlands, isolated from the European mainstream, witches were feared but not executed. They were also useful and older ways of thinking prevailed. Into the 19th century, Gaels performed rituals at the rising and setting of the sun, the making of a fire, before any activity including travelling. Probably these rituals were performed for 1000s of years.

Register at Lawson Writers’ Academy

What you will learn:

  • The history of magic from ancient Persia to Early Modern Europe
  • The meaning and origin of the words: mage, magic, magus 
  • The definition of witchcraft
  • How witchcraft changed through time in the Middle Ages
  • Why there were witch crazes

Every lesson includes questions and/or research projects designed to help you develop the magic or witchcraft in your novel. 

What you will learn:

  • The history of magic from ancient Persia to Early Modern Europe
  • The meaning and origin of the words: mage, magic, magus 
  • The definition of witchcraft
  • How witchcraft changed through time in the Middle Ages
  • Why there were witch crazes

Every lesson includes questions and/or research projects designed to helo you develop the magic or witchcraft in your novel. 

Who should take this course:

  • Writers who want to write a novel with a strong character who is a magus, magician, witch or wizard
  • Writers who want a strong understanding of magic & witchcraft through the ages
  • Writers who want to write a strong subplot involving magic or witchcraft
  • Writers who want to write a time travel involving magic or witchcraft 

Course overview

Lesson one: Magic in the Ancient World

  1. The Mother Goddess
  2. The Hunter God
  3. Sky Gods
  4. Shamans
  5. Mages & Magic

Lesson two: Classical Antiquity

  1. Magic in Antiquity
  2. Greek Magical Papyri
  3. Kolossoi (‘Voodoo’ Dolls) 
  4. The Roman Republic 

Lesson three: Pagan & Norse Belief

       1. Early Middle Age

2. Magic & Christianity

3. Divination

       4. Trolldómr: Norse Witchcraft

       5. The Demonic Pact

Lesson four: White & Black Magic

       1. White & Black Magic

       2. Diabolical Witchcraft

       3. Renaissance Learning

            Astrology

            Alchemy

       4. Men & Magic

       5. Women & Witchcraft

       6. Definitions

Lesson five: The Witch Craze

       1. The Royal Touch

       2.  Cunning Men, Wise Women

       3. The Heartlands of Persecution

       4. Trials of Witches

       5. Trials of the Great

       6. The American Colonies

Lesson six: Persecution in Scotland

  1. Witchcraft in Lowland Scotland
  2. James VI & Witch Trials
  3. Witchcraft in Highland Scotland
  4. The Brahan Seer
  5. The End of Persecution

Clans of Ireland: Beyond the PaleNovember

The Ruined Castle of an Irish clan chief

Ever heard the expression ‘beyond the pale’? Someone behaves dreadfully and someone else says, ‘tsk, tsk, that’s beyond the pale’. The English administration in Ireland coined that phrase about the ‘wild’ Irish. Wild? Why and what was the Pale? 

Ireland has clans too, not just Scotland. Clan comes from clann the Gaelic word for children or descendants. The Gaels of Scotland and Ireland shared not only a language but also culture and law. What you know about Gaelic Scotland (the Highlands), may also be true about Gaelic Ireland. 

Four Ancient Provinces of Ireland
Four Provinces of Ancient Ireland

The land was sacred to the Gaels. The Gaels believed that every bump and dip in the landscape had a story to explain its existence. Fionn, a giant, picked up a clod of earth to throw at his enemy. The hole left in the earth filled with water and is now called Loch (Lake) Neagh. Fionn was likely a pagan god in origin.

Between 1400 and 1700 Ireland changed from a Gaelic land to one conquered by the English. Your readers want a great story, but often they will expect to learn something about the country or period in which your novel is set. You will learn what you require from this course. 

Register at Lawson Writers’ Academy

What you will learn:

  • Major historical events, wonderful or deadly, which provide the background for your novels
  • How to create characters with motivations and conflicts based in Irish history
  • The difference between a Gaelic clan and an Anglo-Irish family as well as their names and locations
  • Daily life in Gaelic Ireland 
  • Marriage customs of the clans – very different from customs in England
  • How to avoid exposition ‘dumps’ & thread in details which enhance your story
  • How to make readers want more after the first five pages of your novel

The meanings of placenames named for the activities of the ancient gods will be provided as well as a timeline for the Late Medieval period (1150-1600)

Who should take the course:

  • Writers wanting to write a novel set in Ireland
  • Writers who have little or no knowledge of Irish history – the ‘big picture’ will be given
  • Writers who have some knowledge of British or Scottish history – the contrasts and similarities will be explained
  • Writers who want to learn a little about Celtic mythology and the meaning of place names and surnames

Course Overview:

Lesson One: The Ancient Stones of Ireland

1. Megaliths

2. Raths – Ráthanna

3. Crannogs – Crannóga

4. Castles

5. The Big Houses

6. Inside an Anglo-Norman Castle

7. Furniture & Furnishings

8. The Calendar

Lesson Two: The Native Irish, the Gaels

2. Language

3. Place Names – Dinnsheanchas

4. Surnames

5. Clothing

6. Gaelic Kings

7. The King’s Men

Lesson Three: The Invaders

1. Vikings 

2. Normans

3. Food & Feasting

4. Hunting & Pastimes

5. Marriage

6. Clothing & Armour of the Anglo-Normans

7. Battle of Clontarf

8. The Pale in the 16th Century

Lesson Four: Beyond the Pale

1. The ‘Wild Irish’

2. Women & Marriage

3. Clothing & Armour of the Irish Gaels

4. Food & Feasting

5. The Clever Fitzpatrick

6. Gráine Ní Mháille / Grace O’ Malley– The ‘Pirate Queen’

Lesson Five: The Long Wars

1. The Tudor Conquest

2. The Nine Years’ War

3. The Flight of the Earls

4. The Plantation of Ulster

5. The Rising of 1641

6. The Confederates of Kilkenny

7. The Wars of the Three Kingdoms

Lesson Six: Cromwellian Settlement

1. Cromwell of Evil Memory

2. Restoration of Charles II, the Merry Monarch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

3. The Williamite/Jacobite Wars

4. The Wild Geese

5. Life in Seventeenth-Century Ireland 

6. Women & War

7. Novels set in Ireland

Walt Disney would have you believe that fairies are sweet little creatures with wings and wands, helpful entities like Tinkerbell and the Tooth Fairy. Walt was wrong. In many lands people believe it’s not wise to go about your business in a manner which offends them–they are touchy. Dead scary in fact. 

Fairies: The Old Gods

Some say the idea of fairies was just too useful to be abandoned. Some say they’re still around because they are the old gods of the Celts. They can do what they want. But what changes they’ve undergone. Lugh, the powerful sky god good at doing many things, has become the Luprachan (leprechaun), the little fairy good at making shoes. But he still guards his pot of gold. 

A young fairy woman carrying a magic purse.
A fairy woman with her bag of magic dust


June: Fantastic Castles & Horrible Hovels
August: Clans of Scotland
October: Magic & Witchcraft
November: Clans of Ireland – Beyond the Pale

If you want more information, please contact me.

Courses in the Past

Viking Age Britain 800-1100

Viking Age Britain 800-1100

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Fairies: The Old Gods

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Class: Sources of Fantasy

Class: Sources of Fantasy

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Course: Celtic Mythology

Course: Celtic Mythology

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Scottish Highlands 1500-1800

Scottish Highlands 1500-1800

Swinging Kilts & Claymores!  Everyone the world over recognises the heroic figure of the Scottish Highlander. But you have to wonder how that distinctive clothing evolved. You might assume that the society of the people who wore it was quite different from the Scottish Lowlands, England or any other European country. And you would be right. In the Scottish Highlands, serial marriage was as common before 1700 as it was in northern Europe before 1200. Highlanders still raided Lowland cattle in the 1600s and 1700s. Lowlanders did not…

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